‘New PSE policy envisages at most 4 strategic-sector firms’
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- The new public sector enterprises policy envisages that the strategic sectors have limited number of players restricting it to maximum four public sector enterprises of a holding nature.
- The remaining enterprises would be rationalised in terms of mergers, amalgamations and privatisation if feasible.
Build capabilities and emphasise on domestic production
- As part of the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’, Finance Minister had announced that there would be a maximum of four public sector companies in strategic sectors, and state-owned firms in other segments would eventually be privatised.
- There is need to build capabilities and emphasise on domestic production for global and domestic outreach at a globally competitive cost.
- There is need to ensure that the desired results are achieved in the collaborative effect of the private sector to enhance wealth, improve R&D, and growth of the economy.
- With the announcements of the new PSU policy, the government wished to have a strong and impactful public sector in a strategic sector.
- MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) have the potential in the sectors such as defence, infrastructure, manufacturing, power, petroleum, coal, mining, ports, airports, and many more, which will help to create better running of government assets.
New Public Sector Policy
- As part of the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ package, the government in May 2020 had announced that there will be a maximum of four public sector companies in the strategic sectors, and state-owned firms in other segments will eventually be privatised.
- Under the policy, a list of strategic sectors will be notified where there will be at least one and a maximum of four public sector enterprises, apart from private sector companies.
- In other sectors, central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) will be privatised, depending on the feasibility.
Government's Disinvestment Target for 2020-2021
- Government plans to raise Rs. 2.1 lakh crore through disinvestment in 2020-21, with just about Rs. 14,000 crore raised so far through minority stake sales.
Need for Disinvestment Proceeds
- There is a pressure on the government to raise resources to support the economic recovery and meet expectations of higher outlays for healthcare.
- The increase in public spending in the upcoming Budget will have to be financed to a large extent by garnering disinvestment proceeds and monetising assets.
- To eliminate the need for the government’s involvement in non-strategic areas.
- Disinvestment means sale or liquidation of assets by the government, usually Central and state public sector enterprises, projects, or other fixed assets.
- The government undertakes disinvestment to reduce the fiscal burden on the exchequer, or to raise money for meeting specific needs, such as to bridge the revenue shortfall from other regular sources.
● Strategic disinvestment is the transfer of the ownership and control of a public sector entity to some other entity (mostly to a private sector entity).
✓ Unlike the simple disinvestment, strategic sale implies a kind of privatization.
● The disinvestment commission defines strategic sale as the sale of a substantial portion of the Government shareholding of a central public sector enterprises (CPSE) of upto 50%, or such higher percentage as the competent authority may determine, along with transfer of management control.
● The Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) under the Ministry of Finance is the nodal department for the strategic stake sale in the Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs).
● Strategic disinvestment in India has been guided by the basic economic principle that the government should not be in the business to engage itself in manufacturing/producing goods and services in sectors where competitive markets have come of age.
● The economic potential of such entities may be better discovered in the hands of the strategic investors due to various factors, e.g. infusion of capital, technology up-gradation and efficient management practices etc.
Perseverance Rover: Nasa
● NASA’s rover Perseverance, the most advanced astrobiology laboratory ever sent to another world has landed safely on the floor of Jezero Crater on Mars.
- The Perseverance rover weighs less than 2,300 pounds and is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.
- It is a part of the mission named ‘Mars 2020’.
- The rover’s mission will be to search for signs of past microbial life. It will also collect samples of Martian rocks and dust, according to the release.
- All of NASA’s previous Mars rovers - including the Sojourner (1997), Spirit and Opportunity (2004) and Curiosity (exploring Mars since 2012) - were named in this way.
Objectives of the mission
- Looking for habitability: identify past environments capable of supporting microbial life.
- Seeking bio-signatures: seek signs of possible past microbial life in those habitable environments, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs over time.
- Caching samples: collect core rock and regolith (“soil”) samples and store them on the Martian surface.
- Preparing for humans: test oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere.
- Looking for underground water
✓ Perseverance will carry the Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX).
✓ The instrument will look for subsurface water on Mars - which, if found, will greatly help the case for a human mission or the cause of a human settlement on Mars.
- Testing a helicopter
✓ The Mars Helicopter is a small drone. It is a technology demonstration experiment: to test whether the helicopter can fly in the sparse atmosphere on Mars.
✓ The low density of the Martian atmosphere makes the odds of actually flying a helicopter or an aircraft on Mars very low.
- Producing oxygen on Mars
✓ Perseverance will have an instrument - MOXIE, or Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment - that will use 300 watts of power to produce about 10 grams of oxygen using atmospheric carbon dioxide.
✓ Should this experiment be successful, MOXIE can be scaled up by a factor of 100 to provide the two very critical needs of humans: oxygen for breathing, and rocket fuel for the trip back to Earth.
- Prime Minister inaugurated a bevy of infrastructure projects in Kerala, including the 2,000-MW Pugalur-Thrissur high voltage direct current (HVDC) power transmission corridor.
- The power transmission corridor would ensure the transfer of a large quantum of power from the national grid to the State and guarantee reliable access to electricity.
- The Prime Minister also inaugurated a 50-MW solar park in Kasaragod and a 75-mld (million litres a day) water treatment plant at Aruvikkara, Thiruvananthapuram, and launched the work on two Smart City Mission initiatives in the capital - the 427-crore 37-km Smart Road project and the Integrated Command and Control Centre at the City Corporation.
Infrastructural projects in Kerala
320 KV Pugalur (Tamil Nadu) – Thrissur (Kerala) power transmission project
- It is India’s first High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) Project
- It will facilitate transfer of 2000 MW power from the western region and help meet the growth in load for Kerala.
- It will also ensure a 35-40% less land footprint compared to a conventional HVDC system.
50 MW Kasaragod Solar Power Project
It has been developed under the National Solar Energy Mission.
Integrated Command and Control Centre at Thiruvananthapuram
- It is being set up to host Smart Solutions for Thiruvananthapuram Municipal Corporation,
- It will act as a common point of action during emergency situations to facilitate coordinated action, and decision making among various agencies like police, civil supplies, revenue, health and fire fighting.
Smart Roads Project in Thiruvananthapuram
- The project envisages converting 37 Kms of existing roads to world-class smart roads by bringing all overhead utilities underneath and undertaking road and junction improvements.
- It will have features like safe pathways, storm water drains, underground ducts for electrical, and communication lines.
Water Treatment Plant at Aruvikkara
- It is being built under the AMRUT Mission.
- It will boost supply of drinking water to Thiruvananthapuram
Sovereign Gold Bonds(SGB): A substitute for physical gold
- SGB is a substitute for holding physical gold.
- The bonds are issued by the RBI on behalf of the government and are a bond denominated in gold.
- The government issues such bonds in tranches at a fixed price that investors can buy through banks, post offices and also in the secondary markets through the stock exchange platform.
Benefits of buying SGB
- These bonds are backed by a sovereign guarantee and can also be held in Demat form.
- Further, they are priced as per the underlying spot gold prices.
- Hence, investors who want to invest in gold can buy the bonds without worrying about the safekeeping of physical gold along with locker charges, making charges or purity issues.
- Plus, these bonds offer interest at the rate of 2.5% per annum on the principal investment amount.
- While the interests on the bonds are taxable, the capital gains at the time of redemption are exempt from tax.
- These bonds can also be used as collateral for availing loans from banks and NBFCs.
- The gold demand rises in times of uncertainty or high inflation.
- Gold demand is mostly met through imports
- Years of high imports are ones of high current account deficits which, in turn, have weakened the rupee.
- It is to reduce this huge import bill that, in November 2015, the government tried to introduce gold bonds.
How are the bonds structured?
- SGB has a fixed tenure of eight years, though early redemption is allowed after the fifth year from issuance.
- Since the bonds are listed on the exchange, these can be transferred to other investors as well.
- The bonds are priced in rupees based on the simple average of the closing price of gold of 999 purity which published by the India Bullion and Jewellers Association.
- At the time of redemption, cash equivalent to the number of units multiplied by the then prevailing price would be credited to the bank account of the investor.
Risks and concerns around it:
A capital loss is a risk since the bond prices would reflect any change in gold prices.
If gold prices fall, the principal investment would fall proportionately.
Crime Against Women
- Recently, the Centre has issued a fresh advisory to states and Union Territories on mandatory action in cases of crimes against women.
- The detailed three-page advisory of the home ministry came days after the alleged gangrape and murder of a woman in Haathras, Uttar Pradesh sparked nationwide outrage.
- The Centre has ordered that probe into rape cases must be completed within two months as per law and that dying declaration of a victim can’t be discarded.
- There should be compulsory registration of a first information report in case of a cognizable offence under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
- India at present is an extremely women unfriendly country, the atrocities and crime against women is something very trivial
- Crime against women is still not among the top 10 priorities of any police organisation.
Existing Condition of Crimes
- Even though the SC verdict in Lalitha Kumari Case is clear that FIR in cases of cognizable offence must be registered. In many cases, FIRs are not even filed, for the reasons:
- To show the minimised statistics of crime in the records.
- More number of FIRs simply indicate the inability of police to curb crimes.
- Humiliation to victim: Victims, instead of getting justice, had to face several unnecessary humiliating questions.
- Crime in home: Most crimes still happen within the confines of homes & victims are raped by people they know well like relatives/friends/etc, most of these cases don't even make it to the statistics.
- No preventive measures: In case of any crime committed against women, the discussion always goes towards punishment for the crime only, but never towards the prevention of crime.
The Lalitha Kumari case
- Lalita Kumari was a minor girl who was kidnapped, following which her father filed a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court.
- He alleged that even though he had submitted a written report to the officer-in-charge of the police station concerned, no action was taken.
- An FIR was filed only after the matter reached the superintendent of police.
- A 5-judged bench was referred for the final judgement which was declared as –
- The police officer cannot avoid his duty of registering offence if cognisable offence is disclosed.
- Action must be taken against erring officers who do not register the FIR if information received by him discloses a cognisable offence.
- Fundamental Rights: It guarantees all Indians the right to equality (Article 14), no discrimination by the State on the basis of gender (Article 15(1)) and special provisions to be made by the State in favour of women (Article 15(3)).
- Fundamental Duties: It ensures that practices derogatory to the dignity of women are prohibited under Article 51 (A).
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005: It provides victims of domestic violence with a means for practical remedy through prosecution.
- The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961: It prohibits the request, payment or acceptance of a dowry.
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013: This legislative act seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work.
- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO), 2012: It was enacted to protect minors from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, while safeguarding the interest of the child at every stage of the judicial process.
Indian IT workers to benefit from U.S. immigration bill
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- In a major move that will benefit thousands of Indian IT professionals in America, the Biden administration has introduced an immigration bill in Congress, which, among other things, proposes to eliminate the per-country cap for employment-based green cards.
- The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 proposes a pathway to citizenship to 11 million undocumented workers, elimination of per-country quota for employment-based green cards and work authorisation for dependents of H-1B foreign workers.
Impact Indian IT companies
- Indian IT companies are amongst the biggest beneficiaries of the US H-1B visa regime, and have since 1990s cornered a lion’s share of the total number of visas issued each year.
- As of April 1, 2020, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had received about 2.5 lakh H-1B work visa applications.
- Indians had applied for as many as 1.84 lakh or 67 per cent of the total H-1B work visas for the current financial year ending March 2021.
- Though the large Indian IT companies have cut down their dependency on H-1B and other worker visas by hiring as much as 50 per cent of staff locally, they still rely on these visas to keep costs in check.
- Indian IT companies also offer subcontracts to Indian nationals already present in the US with valid H-1B visas.
- Bangalore-based Wipro spends as much as 20 percent of its revenue to subcontract Indian workers with valid H-1B visas.